Unsupervised Change Detection of Extreme Events Using ML On-Board

In this paper, we introduce RaVAEn, a lightweight, unsupervised approach for change detection in satellite data based on Variational Auto-Encoders (VAEs) with the specific purpose of on-board deployment. Applications such as disaster management enormously benefit from the rapid availability of satellite observations. Traditionally, data analysis is performed on the ground after all data is transferred - downlinked - to a ground station. Constraint on the downlink capabilities therefore affects any downstream application. In contrast, RaVAEn pre-processes the sampled data directly on the satellite and flags changed areas to prioritise for downlink, shortening the response time. We verified the efficacy of our system on a dataset composed of time series of catastrophic events - which we plan to release alongside this publication - demonstrating that RaVAEn outperforms pixel-wise baselines. Finally we tested our approach on resource-limited hardware for assessing computational and memory limitations.

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